s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

[caption id="attachment_40522" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="CF Napa designed Bluebird and Clif Family Winery's The Climber in a 1.5-liter Astrapouch bag-without-the-box."][/caption]

As Patrick Krutz, maker of a Sonoma County-based luxury-tier small-scale brand, looks for the best vessel to carry his new music industry-oriented second label into venues where such bands play, he's considering a single-serving plastic pouch. Meanwhile in Napa Valley, people behind the edgy X Winery, Miracle One Wines and Clif Bar energy snacks have opted for a 1.5-liter spout-equipped bag without the box for new wine ventures.

For Mr. Krutz, the possibility of putting his new House Band Wines in a 375-milliliter pouch was driven by the target market for the brand, music clubs and festivals where glass containers are problematic.

"It's really about talking to the end user about what makes sense for serving our products, and we'll reverse-engineer it," Mr. Krutz said. House Band is also being marketed via the music industry to pull the product through distribution into new markets.

For St. Helena-based Clif Family Winery, launching The Climber brand earlier this year in a South African-made Astrapouch container was about the active-lifestyle philosophy behind the Clif brand of products, according to Linzi Gay, general manager.

Mr. Krutz, 32, who started Krutz Family Cellars in 2003, came to market two months ago with House Band Wines. Sonoma Wine Co. of Graton is making the wine and produced 5,000 cases of standard 750-milliliter bottles closed with aluminum screw caps. It retails for $9 to $11 a bottle.

Though he launched the new brand in glass, Mr. Krutz asked owners of music venues and promoters of festivals what they would like to see in a wine container for concessions. He heard that glass containers were a potential safety hazard, especially if a fight broke out. To compete with beers selling at under $10, it became clear that a one- or two-serving wine container was the goal, bringing the venue price for House Band in a pouch perhaps to $5.

Krutz Family Cellars produces about 2,000 cases of $38- to $75-a-bottle wines from its new location at the Vintners Square microwinery cluster in Santa Rosa. A Krutz brand devotee and part-owner of the B.B. King Restaurant & Blues Club chain recommended he leverage his love for the musical genre with a premium-tier wine marketed via the music industry.

To put the alternative packaging option for House Band into production, Mr. Krutz turned to Healdsburg-based marketing and packaging design firm Tincknell & Tincknell, which has been creating and advocating for alternative wine packaging for years.

"The pouch is certainly on our radar, ready to pull the trigger on a design, but we're doing more R&D to make sure it will not blow up along transportation routes," Mr. Krutz said.

The pouch idea is being explored with a copacker in the South that has produced an alcoholic beverage in a 375-milliliter plastic pouch. A big issue is the cost to buy the pouches and for a packer to fill them, according to Mr. Krutz and Natasha Granoff of Sonoma Wine Co. Using containers employed by in other beverage industries can involve purchasing them in volumes of hundreds of thousands to millions of units and then installing change parts for bottling lines.

"We've looked at this pouch, and if it works for us, we'll invest in it," she said.

One option is to piggyback on container orders by a much larger brand, a tactic that could be used for House Band with the pouch, according to Paul Tincknell of Tincknell & Tincknell.

Meanwhile, House Band could go into other alternative packages, such as a 3-liter boxed bladder or some other vessel.

Sonoma Wine Co. currently fills bags-in-boxes, and there possibility that could work for boxless bladders, Ms. Granoff said.

In fact, Clif Family Winery, maker of bottled wines retailing for $14 to $38, is having the Astrapouch bladder for The Climber filled by the bag-in-box capabilities of Halsey Mobile Bottling.

Luxury brand design and marketing firm CF Napa helped develop The Climber and Bluebird.

"It was designed to be a more premium-priced product and a move away from the Clif Bar side of the business," said David Schuemann, owner and creative director of CF Napa, of $17-a-pouch The Climber.

Finding a filler for the pouch was a challenge, but with logistics help from FreeRun Winery Services of Healdsburg, Clif launched The Climber in six months from conception.

"It was difficult, since there are only a few filling locations in the country and the category is in the beginning stages," Ms. Gay said.